Whittier College Sociology majors graduate with a wide variety of opportunities before them.
Recent alumni are completing advanced degrees at institutions that include Penn State University, University of Illinois-Champaign, University of Illinois-Chicago, UC Santa Barbara, University of Texas-Austin, San Diego State University, Whittier College (Dept. of Education), Loyola Marymount, and Instituto de Empresa (Madrid, Spain).
Graduates who enter the professional arena have taken jobs in urban planning, law, medicine, education (K-12), social work, non-profit social services, politics, and government.
See what our alumni are up to
Edwin Keh '79
Majors: Sociology, Urban Design, Political Science
What first attracted you to Whittier College? I was attracted immediately to Whittier’s small school environment.
Why did you choose to study your majors? I wanted to learn more about cities in general and, specifically, urbanization. I feel that this is a critical area of study for this century as our cities grow. When I first got to Whittier, I planned to eventually study architecture in graduate school. So I created the urban design concentration for myself. Professor Charles Browning convinced me that the study of buildings and cities without learning about people and culture is incomplete, so I added sociology to my studies. Professor Fred Bergerson, my advisor, encouraged me to learn about how peoples and nations interact with each other, so I added political science.
Describe your experience at Whittier College – What are some of your favorite memories? Classes? Professors? Lessons learned? Whittier was a life-changing experience for me. Intellectually, I experienced how to think, write, and learn. At Whittier, I was challenged to think critically, ask good questions, and effectively communicate. As a person, it was at Whittier that I came to realize that it's not all about me. I should try to make a difference and leave the world better. Socially, I made lifelong friendships at Whittier with my roommates and class mates.
I had wonderful professors who cared about my personal development and invested in me. There are too many to thank, but I recall most fondly Charles Browning who taught me a lot about being a generous person, Fred Bergerson who made me think critically, and Bob Wang (now the Charge d'Affair at the US Embassy in Beijing) who taught me intellectual integrity.
My four years at Whittier were not easy. I had a heavy academic load, I roomed with smart guys who pushed me to study hard and seriously. There were too many interesting things and not enough time. Change and growth are, at times, internal wrestling matches.
What was your first job after Whittier? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? My first job before graduate school was with the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR). I worked in a Vietnamese refugee camp. I managed a news service and I helped with refugee resettlement quota negotiations. I was thrown into the deep end! I recall writing Charles Browning asking for help. He kindly gave me lots of suggestions.
I got the responsibilities I did at the UNHCR not because I was the most qualified, smartest, or the most experienced. I got to take on these huge roles because I was taught at Whittier to think on my feet (learn quickly), communicate effectively, and care deeply. I recall working with lots of professionals who were not as effective because they didn't have the privilege of a Whittier liberal arts education. To this day, I see this as the foundation stone for most of the success stories I experienced in my professional career.
I know you previously worked for Wal-Mart and that you were recently teaching at the Wharton School. What are some of your current projects? For about 20 years, I worked in various global supply chains (Abercrombie & Fitch, Donna Karen, Payless Shoes, Walmart, etc.). While it is fun, and a privilege to have great responsibilities in these various roles, I came to the conclusion that I can be more effective now by being more thoughtful and more strategic in what I do. Whereas I made contributions as an operator in years past, I should now work on putting all of these [lessons] and experiences into a useful intellectual framework. By looking at the big picture more, I can perhaps contribute to the development of more thoughtful and contemporary structures for business, education, and non-profit endeavors.
The Wharton School is a great place to do some of this thinking and writing. This allows me to access research resources that I otherwise don't have, and it’s a great place to test out new ideas. I do a lot of work around global supply chains, especially as it relates to how large cities work. I also have an interest in decision making frameworks, which are ways to make better decisions.
Last year, the Hong Kong Government also appointed me to be the CEO of the HK Research Institute of Textile and Apparel (HKRITA). This is an applied research institute that works on applied solutions to help industry and society. Both of these current roles hopefully will allow me to do some good.
Why did you choose to become a Trustee for Whittier College? How has that experience been? Whittier is such a special place for me that I want to stay engaged and involved. Currently, this means the privilege of being a Trustee. Being a Trustee is a blast! I get to connect with professors, students, and our administrators. Working with dedicated and talented individuals is always fun.
Why did you decide to co-lead the Janterm business course to China? In what ways did Whittier students impress you? The Janterm class was a back of the envelope that business professor Jeff Decker and I had in September 2011. We came up with this class idea over breakfast and we pulled the whole thing off in three months. The students that went on the class [trip] in 2012 really learned a lot and experienced a lot. China is a unique place when it comes to Whittier. Forty years ago, our alum Richard Nixon became to first US President to visit China. The rest really is history. I felt we should connect with our heritage, and this class really puts us right there in the center of our most important foreign relationship.
I really like our students. They, like me 30 years ago, are growing up and becoming better people because of Whittier College.
-Are you a graduate of the Department of Sociology and want to share your story? Contact the Office of Communications at email@example.com.